ENVIRONMENT
11/23/2016 02:54 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2016

Veterinarian Drives 900 Miles To Help Horses Injured At Standing Rock

“I just think everybody needs to help and this was the best way that I could."
A youth rides a horse over a fenced area of land set aside for the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
ROBYN BECK via Getty Images
A youth rides a horse over a fenced area of land set aside for the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Charmian Wright clearly isn’t one to sit on the sidelines while others take action.

When Wright, a veterinarian with 30 years of experience, heard reports of horses getting hurt during protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, heading out to help was the obvious choice for her. The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies are fighting the construction of the pipeline, saying that it would intrude on Native American land and that a leak would contaminate local sources of fresh water. 

“I am passionate about the issues that are being addressed at Standing Rock,” Wright told The Huffington Post. “But when I saw videos of horses being injured, I knew I had to go there.”

Horse riders from the Bigfoot Riders, Dakota 38 Riders, Spirit Riders and the Bigfoot Youth Riders arrive at the Oceti Sakowi
Stephanie Keith / Reuters
Horse riders from the Bigfoot Riders, Dakota 38 Riders, Spirit Riders and the Bigfoot Youth Riders arrive at the Oceti Sakowin camp.

Wright, who runs an equine practice in Park City, Utah, posted on Facebook to find out the needs of protesters — who prefer to be called water protectors — at Standing Rock. Within hours, she got an enthusiastic phone call from a horse caretaker at the Oceti Sakowin Camp. She began prepping for the 900-mile drive to Cannonball, North Dakota, in early November.

“The horses on site are very important for morale and for healing of the humans,” Wright wrote on a GoFundMe page to raise money for veterinary supplies. Horses are integral to the culture of the Standing Rock Sioux and have been an ongoing presence in the movement against the pipeline. 

Upon her arrival in North Dakota, she found that the horses at camp were “very well cared for,” but she was unaware of any other professional veterinarians there. She treated some horses for injuries they received in “the rough and tumble of the protests,” but her primary goal was to teach horse owners and riders how to treat emergency injuries, or assess potential illness. (There have been reports that law enforcement has injured and even killed horses at Standing Rock, but Wright said none of those horses were at the camp when she was there.)

A medic learning to place an IV catheter in a horse.
Charmian Wright
A medic learning to place an IV catheter in a horse.

“I taught them how to do an in-depth physical exam, including the use of a stethoscope, how to assess for lameness, how to body-score for weight, and how to examine teeth,” she said. “We discussed how to assess different types of injuries and how they are treated. I showed them the uses of different medications, such as antibiotics for infection and anti-inflammatories for pain and colic.”

She also discussed nutrition and bandaging techniques, taught some people how to suture wounds, and put together emergency medical kits for horse owners.

Wright said she only instructed people to care for their own horses, since administering veterinary treatment to another person’s horse could be construed as practicing medicine without a license.

Though Wright returned to Utah last week, she is continuing the GoFundMe account to help raise money for the Standing Rock horses’ medical needs. She also will remain available for long-distance consultations, and said she may return if she’s needed.

She repeatedly emphasized that she didn’t consider herself a hero, and that the real credit should go to the brave people defending their rights.

“I just think everybody needs to help and this was the best way that I could,” she said.

HuffPost

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